NLP: Getting computers to understand discourse

Danielle McNamara, Laura K. Allen, Kathryn S. McCarthy, Renu Balyan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Language serves as a powerful lens with which to evaluate students’ understanding of complex topics. Natural language processing, or NLP, not only speeds up the process of discourse analysis, but also provides new insights into how people understand and produce language. This chapter describes how NLP has afforded intelligent tutoring systems that mimic effective in-person tutoring interactions and how the tools developed for handling natural language have been used to evaluate not only the surface-level components but also deep-level comprehension. We conclude by discussing future directions for the application and advancement of NLP that can inform both theory and practice.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationDeep Comprehension
Subtitle of host publicationMulti-Disciplinary Approaches to Understanding, Enhancing, and Measuring Comprehension
PublisherTaylor and Francis
Number of pages13
ISBN (Electronic)9781351613279
ISBN (Print)9781315109503
Publication statusPublished - Jan 1 2018


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)

Cite this

McNamara, D., Allen, L. K., McCarthy, K. S., & Balyan, R. (2018). NLP: Getting computers to understand discourse. In Deep Comprehension: Multi-Disciplinary Approaches to Understanding, Enhancing, and Measuring Comprehension (pp. 224-236). Taylor and Francis.